Due to mixed news coming out of Columbia for some time but positive news from the Canadian Government's Country Reports indicating Cartagena to be 94% safe, we dared to look and found an excellent deal for the period Dec. 17-26, 2011 and undertook our trip to Columbia.
All along we were going to Occidental Grand Cartagena, only to find that it was ESTELAR Grand Playa Manzanillo ( the company that was supplying the catering).
Welcome was quite unusual and impressive, Colombian singer and dancer to receive us as we reported to the Reception.
Being a new Resort, everything was impressive, nice buildings overlooking the garden and a pool for the seniors, beautiful landscaped grounds in U shape and facing the sea beyond.
Rooms overlooking the central garden and the sea were spacious except that the beds were made of solid cement block with well padded mattresses, first time ever to see this, most likely due to humidity and insects (climatic necessity with minimum use of AC)
Walkways were covered, winding through the gardens, passing Reception, pools, dinning hall, bar and the beach, were all nicely laid out.
Dinning hall under a huge canopy was an open concept with minimum AC, fresh breeze from all sides. The buffet food was very low quality, salads and cut fruit were presented only enough for 3-4 persons at a time, the rest to wait for the next refills (may be stored in fridge for health reasons). There were lots of dishes with pork or ham, not popular with everyone, but there was abundance of wine (3-4 servers going around) at every meal. Once discovered that there is a grill, life became easier. Serving staff was predominantly Spanish speaking but courteous. Specialty Restaurant was not much different except for service and better quality drinks.
Every evening there was a music concert and on Christmas Eve, there was a huge dinner with famous Colombian singer and musicians, real memorable event.
The Resort being away from Cartagena, there was a shuttle service but not enough for a big group. Cartagena city itself is a beauty of Old Spanish Colonial town well preserved and restored. It is something to remember for a long time.
We did not come across any incidence of drug pushing but it was there on the public beaches, perhaps. Strongly recommend at least one visit to Cartagena, you will love it.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- The Occidental Grand Cartagena Resort***** hotel's objective is to provide luxury, all-inclusive services on the seafront on the beautiful beaches of Manzanillo Bay. It is close to the cosmopolitan city of Cartagena de Indias. It has a contemporary design and a very calm ambience, and our guests' first impression is of an idyllic resort to relax and unwind in. Have a dip in the pool, stroll around the beautiful lush gardens or enjoy the 24-hour drink and snack service. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Occidental Grand Cartagena Hotel Cartagena